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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: NASA TV

The first flight planned for NASA's Space Launch System rocket hangs in the balance as the space agency reckons with a major test that didn't go as planned this weekend.

Why it matters: The billions of dollars over-budget SLS is key to NASA's plans to send people to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and for the agency's deep space exploration goals for years to come.

Catch up quick: The Saturday test — expected to be the last major milestone ahead of its first space flight planned for November — was designed to have all four engines of the rocket's core stage fire for eight minutes on the ground.

  • But the engines only fired for about 60 seconds before the test automatically aborted.
  • According to an update from NASA, the abort occurred due to conservatively set testing parameters, but all of the hardware, including the SLS engines and stage appear to be in good shape.
  • NASA hasn't yet decided whether it will need to rerun the test with its contractors — which include Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne — before shipping the rocket from Mississippi to Florida.
"We don't know what we don't know," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press conference after the test. "It's not everything we hoped it would be."

What's next: NASA isn't yet ruling out the idea of launching the SLS later this year.

  • "We are still shooting for a launch this year," NASA's head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said during a press conference Tuesday.
  • Even if the test had gone perfectly, the already delayed rocket was still working with little margin in its schedule.
  • Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin announced the Orion capsule it is building for the first SLS mission has been transferred to NASA ahead of flight.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Investment in the space industry overcame the pandemic's headwinds in 2020

A SpaceX launch in 2020. Photo: SpaceX

Investment in the space industry continued to grow in the last quarter of 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Space Capital.

Why it matters: The space industry turned out to be far more robust in the face of the pandemic than many experts were initially expecting.

51 mins ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.

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